Neither of those things happened in abundance during FAU’s first two games, both losses, but Saturday’s 41-31 victory at Ball St. provided a glimpse of what Kiffin had been searching for.
Entering Saturday’s game the Owls forced only three turnovers and recorded five sacks on the season. On Saturday at Ball St. the Owls forced four turnovers and sacked Cardinals’ quarterback Drew Plitt five times.
“I feel like we fought through adversity today,” linebacker Rashad Smith said. “Adversity strikes, we had a chance to prevail or fold. So I think we did a good job with that.”
Smith recovered two fumbles and forced another with a sack that was recovered by Ray Ellis. Smith now has three fumble recoveries on the season, tying an FAU single-season record. Five different Owls, including Ellis, recorded at least half a sack, with Leighton McCarthy getting 1 1/2.
The Owls recorded 10 tackles for loss, with 5 ½ coming from defensive linemen.
“Once they get going, we just feed off them,” Lewis said of the line.
FAU GameBrowser: FAU (1-2) 41, Ball St. (1-2) 31
With Ball St. marching toward a go-ahead touchdown early in the third quarter, Da’Von Brown forced a Caleb Huntley fumble at the goal line that Rashad Smith fell on in the end zone. FAU took possession and swiftly traveled 80 yards to take a double-digit lead and never looked back.
- FAU’s offensive line endured plenty of criticism for its play during the first two weeks of the season, but the unit rebounded with a strong effort on Saturday. Running backs found enough room to keep Ball St. pass rushers honest and quarterback Chris Robison’s uniform remained mostly clean. “I had a lot of time to throw,” Robison said. “All thanks to the offensive linemen and the running backs an the tight ends. When it’s like that it’s easy to make throws down the field, and go through your reads, and be able to find the open guy.”
- Even playing without injured defensive tackle Noah Jefferson, FAU’s defensive line delivered its best game of the season. Redshirt senior citizen Ray Ellis enjoyed one of the best games of his career, with 1 ½ of his six tackles going for loss. Leighton McCarthy notched 2 ½ tackles for loss. This kind of defensive line play should continue into Conference USA play, which should worry opponents.
- It’s encouraging to see big days from starting wide receivers John Mitchell and Pico Harrison, who combined for 12 catches and 211 receiving yards, but the Owls have yet to find depth behind them. Dante Cousart, DeAngelo Antoine and Willie Wright were the only other wide receivers to catch passes, and they tallied only 29 yards, Most of their nine combined catches came on jet sweeps, And Wright is simply lost right now.
- FAU’s kicking game is better than it was last year, but Vladi Rivas isn’t exactly inspiring confidence. He didn’t attempt a field goal on Saturday but did miss an extra point. His missed field goal last week against UCF wasn’t close.
2 – Incompletions thrown by Chris Robison in the second half.
3 – Rushing touchdowns in his first three games for Larry McCammon, who had a career-high 99 rushing yards.
7 – Third down conversions on 16 tries for FAU.
8 – Tackles apiece for Zyon Gilbert, Da’Von Brown and Keke Leroy, who tied for most among Owls.
21 – receptions by FAU wide receivers. The unit entered Saturday with only 16 combined catches over the first two games.
123 – Combined rushing yards by lead backs McCammon and James Charles. FAU averaged only 80 rushing yards over its first two games.
124 – Receiving yards for redshirt junior John Mitchell. He entered Saturday with 128 career receiving yards.
498 – Yards of total offense for FAU.